'We're saving lives': Halifax West students donate blood to mark graduation

Halifax West High School students celebrated graduating by donating blood on Saturday in Halifax.  (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)
Halifax West High School students celebrated graduating by donating blood on Saturday in Halifax. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)

A group of students graduating from Halifax West High School are celebrating the milestone by banding together to donate blood.

The graduates and their parents are making the largest group donation ever in Halifax, according to the Canadian Blood Services.

"It feels awesome," said Cole Oakley. "When you get poked it hurts, but after that though it feels great knowing all this is going to a good cause."

Oakley said he donated blood for the first time in March, but going with friends and family made the experience even better.

"I did it by myself last time, but doing it as a group feels like a field trip and then you're all there saving lives," he said. "That's the most important thing, we're saving lives."

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Oakley says the initiative is also bringing the community together. The students and their parents are part of a group called 333 Lifesavers based in Prospect, N.S.

More than 60 members arrived at the donor centre Saturday morning after sharing breakfast.

For many of them, it was their first time giving blood.

"It was a little bit of a nervous experience," said graduate Logan Romans.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Once the process started, it was a painless process that involved sitting in a comfy chair and getting a free snack, Romans said.

"I'm easily entertained and it was actually a really relaxing and a good experience," he said. "I got nothing bad to say. I'd come again."

Romans said it didn't take much to convince him to take part in the group donation knowing it was going to a good cause and he knows a lot of young people don't donate.

"It's actually a really good experience," he said."I would suggest it to a lot of people my age. You are helping people out."

Need to attract young donors

Canadian Blood Services says attracting young donors will help meet the need for blood over the long term.

The pandemic led to a major decline in the number of Canadians who donate blood regularly, says Krysta Hanakowski, community development manager with Canadian Blood Services.

She said four per cent of eligible donors in the country gave blood before the pandemic, but that's now down to two per cent.

While the donor base has shrunk, Hanakowksi said many of the loyal donors remaining are getting older.

"So, having these high school students [come] in really does make the difference," she said. "That's why we hope to inspire more young people to come out and donate at the clinic."